Armin Kremer comes out top at FIA Rally Championship

MUMBAI: It was a great weekend for Team MRF. Its ace driver Armin Kremer (co-driver Fred Berssen) completed a historic double. The German emerged Overall and Group N (unmodified class) winner of the 2003 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship. The three-day event concluded in Pune yesterday.



Kremer finished the MRF India Rally which is the fifth and concluding round of the 2003 APRC series, second Overall behind Malaysia's Karamjit Singh (co-driver Allen Oh) of Team Petronas Eon Racing. In the process the 39-year old Kremer who was also the 2001 European champion picked up 15 points (eight for 2nd place and seven Leg points) that boosted his Championship tally to 53. Singh who is the defending champion finished with 52 points.

Despite a fantastic show on the last two days Singh was left to rue his misfortune of a puncture on the first day that cost him around two minutes. Kremer driving a Group N Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7, took the Leg 1 honours on Friday. The three points he thus earned proved decisive. Karamjit, in a Group A Proton Pert, won the event quite comfortably, while being quickest in Leg 2 and 3.

A disappointed Singh added, "If I hadn't had the puncture on the first day, when I was in front, I could have won the Championship. But when I look back, I lost valuable points when I missed the first round in Canberra, then took part in the next round in Rotorua, New Zealand, in a hired car that was not set up for the event. I also suffered a gearbox failure in Hokkaido, Japan. But I will come back again next year in a new car with better technology as the present vehicle is five years old and regain the APRC title".

Kremer's twin success put the Chennai-based MRF which is in only its second APRC season, firmly on the international motorsport map. It became the first Indian company to win a major FIA Championship on its own steam. The former German champion was quick to attribute his success to the MRF tyres that he said withstood the vastly varying conditions of Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Thailand and India where the APRC rounds were run this year.

Dwelling on his performances at the different APRC legs Kremer said, "It was a great experience for me to drive in different conditions. But in Canberra, I was wanting to first get used to the unfamiliar conditions, though my overall objective was to win at least the Group N title. The Pune round was quite challenging. The Special Stages were rough, narrow and twisty. But overall, visiting India has been an amazing experience for me."

Interestingly New Zealand's Geof Argyle (co-driver Steve Smith) of Team Racetech Seats, who came into the Pune round leading the Championship standings, faded away with plenty of mechanical problems. There was further good news for Team MRF Tyres. Their second entry, David Doppelreiter of Austria (co-driver Ola Floene of Norway), finished third in Group N Championship standings, behind Kremer and Italy's Domenico Caldarola (co-driver Paolo Cecchini). In this manner the Indian company got two podium finishes.

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